Dec. 31, 2006
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team (5-8) will enter the Big Sky Conference season on a high note after topping the University of Portland (8-7), 84-66, in just its fourth New Year's Eve game in history. The Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead and would never let its advantage get below eight.
"I am really happy that we came out in the first five minutes with great offensive and defensive intensity," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "I thought that we set the tone early. Portland is a team that jumps on teams early, and that was something that we worked hard to thwart early on. I'm really proud of our kids for getting off to such a great start. It was a great team win tonight.
"Our girls flew around out there today. They played with some reckless abandonment. Ever since Christmas break started, we have been trying to press teams (in practice) but had not been able to completely let loose; tonight, we were able to finally let loose. It was a great win."
Sixth man Brittney Osborn set a career high in points scored with 20, while Joanna Chadd tallied 22 on 8-of-12 shooting (5-of-8 from beyond the three-point line) to lead all players in scoring. That marks the sixth time Chadd has topped the 20-point mark so far in 2006-07. Two other Eagles had double-digit point totals today: Sydney Benson (11) and Phynique Allen (10).
"We have girls who can shoot the three pointer real well," Schuller said. "Joanna Chadd is really lighting it up for us this year, and we are starting to shoot better as a team. Three pointers can make big things happen in a hurry during a basketball game, and Joanna was able to hit a few threes late in the game to help put Portland away. It is great when you can get those kinds of shots to fall."
Allen set the pace in assists with eight of EWU's 21, as the Eagles outpaced Portland in that category, 21-7. She also had a game-high total in steals with five, as Eastern led in that category, 18-10. Both of those marks are season-high totals for the Eagles and career-high totals for Allen.
The rebounding leaders for Eastern Washington include Tara Holgate (7), Benson (6) and Osborn (6).
After Eastern Washington held Portland scoreless the first 4:23 of the game, the Eagles would not allow the Pilots to score again until 8:32 had elapsed. Eastern held a 21-2 lead before a pair of Pilot free throws cut into the margin. Portland would not get its second field goal of the game until a Laiken Dollente jumper with 9:32 remaining in the half cut Eastern's lead to 23-7.
At that point, Portland would rally and, near the end of the half, use a 12-3 run to cut Eastern's edge to just eight at 34-26 with 2:22 remaining. The Eagles impressively responded to the threat with a 12-4 run to go into the break up, 46-30.
The Eagles cruised in the second half, grabbing its largest lead of the game, 64-38, with 16:21 remaining. The lead never got below 14 in that stanza.
"I'm glad that we ended on a good note before entering conference play," Schuller said. "We needed this win today, and I felt like this was the first game that we played hard for 40 minutes."
Eastern Washington now hits the road to start Big Sky play, taking on Montana State and Montana on Thursday (Jan. 4) and Saturday (Jan. 6), respectively. Both games start at 6:05 p.m. PT. The Bobcats enter league play with a 5-7 mark, while the Lady Griz are 12-1.
"We are excited to get into conference play," Schuller said. "We have one of the toughest road trips right off the bat, so we have to get out there and really be road warriors; with a young team, that is tough sometimes. We are going into those road games with the mentality that we will come out with a win."